Sermon for January 10, 2021

COMPASSION

LAMENTATIONS 3:22-24

Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

רַחַם-racham-rakh’-am-From H7355; compassion (in the plural); by extension the womb (as cherishing the fetus); by implication a maiden: – bowels, compassion, damsel, tender love, (great, tender) mercy, pity, womb.[1]

 Lamentations is an interesting book to read in the Old Testament but is one of the most fascinating books to read.  Just consisting of 5 chapters it has so much information for us to chew on.  Often attributed to the weeping Prophet Jeremiah, we do not authentically know the author(s) of Lamentations.  In fact, Lamentations is not a book at all but rather a collection of 5 separate constructions of ancient poetry dealing with the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, something the author(s) have witnessed themselves. 

The first four chapters are written as Acrostic Poetry meaning each line starts with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order, in English this would mean that the first sentence starts with A, the next line starts with B and so on.  Chapters 1,2, and 4 follow this pattern and chapter three follows its own pattern of three lines per letter.  Apparently, chapter 5, the author was tired of following a set pattern and uses no pattern at all.

Lamentations is a book on how the people of Jerusalem were affected by what we read in 2 Kings 24 and 25.  Chapter one is a poem as if it were a funeral, the death of Jerusalem, referred to as Daughter of Zion.  Chapter 2 is a poem of God’s Justice due to Israel breaking their promises (covenants).  Chapter 3 is a poem that consolidates other laments we find in the Old Testament.  It uses Job’s lament of chapter 3, the lamenting Psalms 22 and 69, and the suffering servant laments of Isaiah 53.  It is the only part of Lamentations that has a glimpse of hope in it, the rest of it is despair and grief.  Chapter 4 is a poem of the two-year siege of Jerusalem and chapter 5 is a prayer that ends in a paradox.  The end leaves it open that God will not hear their prayer because their actions have left their relationship with God beyond repair.

Lamentations is a book of the struggle between human thinking and all that is wrong with the world and trying to rationalize the idea of a loving God.  It is a book that is common in human existence.  It is the common question of, “How can a loving all powerful God allow so much evil to happen in this world?”  And the key to understanding a critical biblical question that is posted is found in the verses I have provided for you today in Lamentations 3:22-24.

God’s Compassion

Hebrew word for compassion is a beautiful word.  That God cares because, like a mother giving birth to a child, no matter what that child does, that mother naturally loves that child.  God’s compassion is like that.  Our kids will do all kind of things that we do not approve of.  They will not listen, they will be purposefully disobedient, they will bend and break rules, they will think that they know better, they will drive you crazy to the point where you want to hug them and strangle them at the same time!  These verses in Lamentations, the author understands what God must be going through because He birthed us!  It is that love, that of a good parent, that loves their children unconditionally but still be incredibly upset at the choices your children are making.  It is a battle of wills.  It is a battle of respect.  It is this understanding that the author says, “I will wait on him”.  It is an attitude of patience and respect.

Perhaps this is why God put this in the 10 Commandment…

Exodus 20:12 ESV: Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

God has firsthand experience does He not?  If you are Catholic or Lutheran, you are taught that this is the Fourth Commandment, the rest of us say that this is the Fifth.  However, notice that either way, this is the transition commandment between our honor and worship of God (the first four) and our relationships with others (the last six).  That makes this Commandment much deeper than what we give attention to.  Why?  God’s compassion as defined in Lamentations.


[1] Strong’s Concordance- H7356

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